Penn Museum opens Black Bodies in Propaganda: The Art of the War Poster

Penn Museum presents Black Bodies in Propaganda: The Art of the War Poster, an exhibition on view June 2, 2013, through March 2, 2014 a unique collection of posters, collected and curated by Penn professor and PBS History Detectives host Tukufu Zuberi,

Propaganda has long been used to mobilize people in times of war, and this exhibition presents 33 posters, most targeting Africans and African-American civilians, in times of war. These carefully designed works of art were aimed at mobilizing people of color in war efforts, even as they faced oppression and injustice in their homelands.

The exhibition explores changing messages on race and politics through propaganda—from the American Civil War, to World War I, World War II, and through to the African independence movements.

“These posters tell a story about the dynamics of race,” said Dr. Zuberi. “Black bodies are racialized in these posters as they capture defining moments in history. Race is always about second-class citizenship, it is always about a relationship between two groups and how one group is defined as superior and the other group is defined as inferior. These posters represent definitive moments in this historical process.”

In addition to the posters, the exhibition features three objects, soldier attire from Sudan, circa 1900, from the Penn Museum’s African Collection. Additionally, interactive multimedia allows visitors to explore some of the posters’ distinctive iconography, while archival military recruitment films and a related segment from PBS’ History Detectives enrich the exhibition.

Penn Museum can be found on the web at www.penn.museum. For general information call 215.898.4000. For group tour information call 215.746.8183.

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